Design for the "Broke" Young Professional

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by Kelly Anne Bonner As anyone who has ever walked across a stage and into an entry-level job can tell you, you don't have to be in college to be broke. Oh, no—even while earning a paycheck, reaching a perfectly-balanced distribution of funds is like the holy grail. With rent, bills, and the occasional (okay, frequent) happy hour, there's hardly anything left to outfit that utterly tiny apartment of yours. And to purchase decor/furnishings for cheap and not make it look like crap seems, indeed, pretty unlikely. So what's a young professional, ready to take on the world and have her surroundings look at least a bit nice and livable in her post-college apartment, to do? We asked for some tips from one of our in-house interior designers, who created moodboards to demonstrate that actually, with a little forethought, designing a small place on a super limited budget is not so complicated as you might imagine. With these commandments in mind, taking the little that's left over and investing it in your apartment will be a good use of funds, as these tricks have been proven in many a small space (oh, and you'll get to visualize what they'll look like in your space, too, via our moodboards below): 
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Inspiration Image via Freshome

Find items with multiple uses. Making the most of your small space means getting hyper-organized. If there's even the faintest bit of clutter, the place will already start to look to look like a mess. But this doesn't mean you have to be a hyper-organized person—when purchasing furnishings, try to seek out pieces that can store things in addition to their main purpose. For example, in this moodboard, a nightstand also functions as a dresser for storing clothes and other bedroom items. Inspiration Image via Better Homes & Gardens  
Use poufs instead of chairs or another sofa. Do you know what's cheaper than a new sofa or even a living room chair? A pouf. This is a design trick that's perfect for a small space: including a pouf where another seating place would be. The price of poufs on Craigslist will win out against most furnishings on there (unless they of course are free, in which case you are simply waiting to get lucky), are cheaper at full price than furnishings in general, and are easier to transport in the many moves that inevitably happen post-college. Poufs also just tend to add a je ne sais quoi to any living room, lending a design touch only you will know has other secret, more budgetary reasons for being there.  Inspiration Image via Domaine Home.
Glass furniture will visually open the space and allow light to shine through the apartment. There is a great case for glass and lucite (the lighter, plastic cousin of glass) other than that pieces in them look design-savvy and gorgeous. What's ideal about "ghost" furniture is that, if you can see through a piece in your home, the area taken up by that piece is no longer blocked to the eye. Thus, you get to visually retain that area, which is crucial in a small space where there isn't much of it. Another few perks are that light passes through these pieces beautifully, and you can get them for reasonable prices.
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Inspiration Image via Lushome
 
Use an open storage unit as a space divider. One more thing about working with a small space is that you've got to be savvy about how you divide it for different purposes. Even if you only have two rooms (or just a studio!), you'll still need a seating area, a dining area, and a place to sleep. Oh, and as aforementioned, you'll need plenty of storage. This is a time when you can kill two birds with one stone, as a bookshelf or some other kind of storage unit will easily divide the space and provide more places to put things—as well as, for the sake of design, display them. We insist on an "open" unit because, as demonstrated in the moodboard above, just like with glass pieces you're able to still see much of your small space. Storage units like this go for $100 or less, and can easily be sourced on Craigslist. Inspiration Image via Freshome
Don't overpower your small space with large furniture pieces. When it comes to outfitting a small apartment, small-scale is best. Like in this moodboard demonstrates, go for a loveseat over a bigger sofa. Get a smaller coffee table rather than a huge ottoman. And a compact, two-seater dining area will mesh in well with the other downsized items you have. This way everything will fit much better, leaving you more room in between for walkways. Plus, smaller furniture is generally less expensive—perfect!
Inspiration Image via Casasugar.
Use a large wall mirror to trick the eye and expand your apartment. This may be one of the oldest decorating tricks in the book, but it's mentioned tirelessly because it works. One huge mirror across your living room will make worlds of difference in how you perceive your apartment and the size of it. These, too, can be easily gotten for a reasonable price or off of Craigslist.
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Now start taking over the world—beginning with your apartment.
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Inspiration Image via  79ideas.

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